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Recount bids are gumming up Pa.'s election works

Plus, CDC adds Pa. to polio surveillance program.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
December 2, 2022
Election delays, forced deal, permanent curfew, Shapiro staff, polio surveillance, 'boy in the box,' and pay phones return. It's Friday.

A wave of recount petitions that claim without evidence that fraud occurred in Pennsylvania's 2022 election is inundating counties and delaying the state's certification of results, Spotlight PA and Votebeat report. 

According to a spokesperson for the state's court system, 147 petitions were filed in 41 counties as of Thursday morning, most targeting the races for governor and U.S. Senate, both of which were won by Democrats.

That has delayed certification in at least three counties — Berks, Bucks, and Columbia — which has delayed state-level certification as well.

Read the full report: Unprecedented number of recount requests delay election certification in at least 3 Pa. counties.

THE CONTEXT: An obscure section of state law allows recount petitions to be easily filed, and right-wing groups appear to be exploiting that provision to an unprecedented degree this year, Spotlight PA and Votebeat found. 

The petition drive appears to be an effort of Audit the Vote PA and other groups that have promoted baseless conspiracy theories about elections here. Audit the Vote's co-founder and CEO Toni Shuppe was closely allied with Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano.

State Sen. Ryan Aument (R., Lancaster), who won his May primary against an Audit the Vote-backed challenger, prompting an Audit the Vote-backed recount push, said Wednesday that a legislative solution might be needed.

"If the law continues to be abused this way, I think we need a legislative change to safeguard taxpayer dollars and ensure election workers aren’t wasting their time administering hand recounts of elections for which there is no evidence that any malfeasance occurred," Aument said. 

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"My colleagues feel as emboldened as ever to vote as heinously as they have, even if they don’t feel that way themselves."

—Newly retired state Rep. Brian Sims (D., Philadelphia) discussing anti-LGBTQ legislation in Harrisburg and his next role in the private sector
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Smooth sailing on the Susquehanna, via Julie J. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania

The smooth surface of the Susquehanna River framed by rolling hills.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.STRIKE VOTE: The U.S. Senate has passed a bill that would force rail-worker unions to accept a tentative labor deal — without the paid sick days workers seek — and avoid a costly rail strike. On Wednesday, the House advanced the bill and another upping the sick day allotment, with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) crossing party lines in support of the latter measure. But it was rejected by the Senate. 

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.CURFEW CITY: Philly is one step closer to making a pandemic-era curfew for people 17 and younger permanent. Council backed the update on Thursday and it's headed to the mayor. The city has had a curfew in place for decades, but this tightened version, which offers exceptions for working teens, was adopted in an effort to quell crime during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts doubt its impact.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.CAPITAL BRIEFS: Dana Fritz, a longtime aide to Attorney General Josh Shapiro, will serve as his chief of staff when the Democrat takes office as Pennsylvania's next governor in January, per City & State. In unrelated news: the AP reports a second Pennsylvania appellate court judge, Deborah Kunselman, has declared a 2023 run for late state Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer's vacant seat.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.POLIO TESTING: The CDC is bringing its search for traces of polio in wastewater to Pennsylvania. The expanded testing initiative will start in Oakland County, Michigan, and Philadelphia. The Inquirer (paywall) reports Philly was chosen because of connections between residents of that city and communities in New York, where the nation's first new cases of polio in nearly a decade were discovered this summer.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.CONFIRMED ID: Police say they've discovered the identity of a 1957 Philadelphia murder victim known for generations simply as "the boy in the box." Officials say DNA testing and genealogy work helped deliver the key piece of information in the 65-year-old mystery. Philadelphia police will be giving an update on the case as early as next week. The child's name had not been publicized as of Thursday.
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ARGO'S END: Reporting by Bloomberg sheds new light on the sudden October shutdown of Pittsburgh driverless car pioneer Argo AI. The outlet says e-commerce giant Amazon was a potential savior, until it wasn't.

FALLEN STAR: A peregrine falcon that became a favorite of viewers of the livestreamed nest atop the Rachel Carson State Office Building in Harrisburg has died from natural causes at the age of 13.

EASY CALL: A group in Philly is putting pay phones back in and making them free. MUO reports the old-is-new-again tech is powered by Linux and open-source software and meant to help bridge communication gaps.

RAT RESCUE: Several states are joining forces for what might be a last-ditch effort to save the Allegheny woodrat, the Bay Journal reports. Populations of the rodent in Pennsylvania have continued to drop at an alarming rate.

NEXT ORDER: Penn State's Berkey Creamery is rolling out its first new flavor in four years. They've gone with salted caramel cheesecake and the limited-time offering is sure to go fast, StateCollege.com reports. 

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Predicament

Congrats to our daily winners: Mike B., Craig W., Barbara F., Joel S., Jon W., Don H., Ed O., Karen W., Judith D., Dianne K., Ted W., John F., Greg V., Elaine C., Starr B., Susan D., Jane R., Tish M., Vicki U., Michelle T., Myles M., Susan N.-Z., Nancy S., James B., Bill S., Frederick H., John P., Wendy A., Daniel M., and Stanley J.
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